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Could Grubhub’s Attendance Policy Add to the Coronavirus (Covid-19) Issue?

Or Influenza or any other health crisis

Does the Grubhub attendance policy have the potential to help spread infectious diseases such as Covid-19 (Cornonavirus)?

With the growth of the gig economy, there is already a concern related to whether people who rely heavily on independent contractor income can afford to take time off. Luke McGee of CNN writes about the choice of gig workers between self isolating and getting paid.

When gig work involves people who are in contact with several people, and those workers may be more inclined to keep working even if they're feeling under the weather, can that contribute to the spread of influenza or Coronavirus or other infectious diseases? Because of that issue, Uber recently announced they would implement mechanisms to compensate drivers who came down with the virus or who were quarantined by public health officials.

Does the Grubhub attendance policy encourage drivers to keep delivering when unwell in light of Covid-19 Coronavirus?
Food courier in China wearing a mask to protect against spread of disease

Grubhub and their attendance policy.

For many Grubhub couriers, the concern goes beyond just not getting paid. Grubhub's attendance policy creates greater incentive for their independent contractors to keep delivering even when feeling ill.

We already know that attendance policy and independent contractors shouldn't be in the same sentence. Simply put, the policy is part of their incentive system or program levels. More cynically put, it's a method to manipulate drivers into accepting more offers and to allow Grubhub to control the work of independent contractors.

Want to know how I really feel?

The Grubhub Scheduling System.

Grubhub uses a scheduling system. You sign up for time blocks. It is possible to sign on and deliver with Grubhub even when not scheduled. However, those drivers who are on a schedule block get priority. My personal experience is that the offers are much better and much more consistent while delivering during a scheduled block than when simply toggled as available.

Grubhub then uses a program level system to control access to those schedule blocks. They created three different program levels, Premier, Pro, and Partner. Drivers who meet the highest level of criteria are designated as Premier, and they have the first access to the schedule blocks. Pro drivers (mid level qualification) get second access, and then Partner drivers get last priority. Qualification for these levels hinges on acceptance rate (how many delivery offers you accept) and attendance (working the blocks that you schedule yourself).

The criteria may fluctuate based on market. In my market, to have the first level access to scheduling, you need to accept 95% of the delivery offers you are given, have dropped 10% or less of the schedule blocks you sign up for, and have worked 100% of the blocks you are scheduled for.

The critical importance of scheduling

In many markets, there is such a dramatic difference between the quality and consistency of offers to contractors that are scheduled and those that are not that is is essential that drivers be able to schedule themselves. Access to scheduling can be so competitive that many drivers feel Premier and Pro level criteria are necessities if they want to earn reasonable money.

In other words, if you are not scheduled, you often cannot expect to earn much while delivering with Grubhub. And this scares the bejeebers out of drivers. You see it in forums all the time, drivers concerned about losing their driver level because they NEED access to scheduling.

Grubhub knows this scares drivers. Rather than reassuring drivers, they use this fact. Their most popular punitive measure in dealing with non-compliant drivers is to remove access to schedule blocks. I had this happen once, with no explanation give as to why it happened. I finally learned from my driver specialist that I had logged out early during a scheduled block. Michael from the Delivery Driver Pitstop recently reported in one of his videos that he had schedule access taken away because he went over a 30% drop rate on his schedule.

Why Grubhub's Attendance Policy Is an Issue When it comes to Covid-19 Coronavirus or other infectious diseases

Because of the attendance policy, there's greater incentive now for drivers to keep delivering even when they are feeling sick. It's not just about not affording to be idle now, it's also about ability to earn in the future.

Say you are a Premier level driver in a market saturated with drivers. You feel like you need to keep Premier level in order to have access to scheduling. You set your schedule for the following week on Thursday when they become available. If you wait, you may not be able to get any scheduled blocks.

The following Monday, you are feeling sketchy. You got the email from Grubhub that says “stay home if you feel unwell.” You think to yourself that you're not sure you can afford to do that. But then to top things off, staying home means dropping blocks. Dropping blocks means losing Premier status. Losing Premier status means losing the ability to schedule blocks, and that means losing the ability to earn. And could they just totally take away your access to scheduled blocks?

Now it's not just the money you don't earn when you stay home. Now it's your ability to earn in the future. The fear of having scheduling ability taken away feels to many drivers like it's about the same as being fired.

It's not a choice between self isolating and being paid.

To many, staying home means being fired.

Understand, I'm not recommending Grubhub drivers pursue Premier Level.

This whole driver level thing to me is a blatant violation of the indpenendent contractor relationship. It doesn't matter if AB5 is repealed or what standards you are looking at, controlling the work of the driver is a violation under ANY standard.

I encourage drivers to assert their independence and stand up for their rights as contractors. Usually accepting the percent of orders required to meet Premier means a dramatic reduction in earning potential.

But I bring this up because Grubhub has managed to convince a tremendous amount of drivers that Premier is a necessity. They've created an environment among their most loyal contractors that really is an employee mentality. For many drivers it really does feel like it's a choice between staying home and keeping your job.

How is this environment appropriate in an independent contractor relationship?

I call on Matt Maloney and Grubhub to suspend their attendance policy in light of the Coronavirus/Covid-19 concerns.

You should do away with it because it's the right thing to do, period. Scheduling blocks and driver levels are all your means of controlling and intimidating drivers into doing what you want to do. That's inappropriate with employees, it's illegal with contractors.

You sent your email out earlier about the concerns and led it off with this statement:

We are focused on prioritizing the health and safety of our delivery partners, diners, and restaurant partners.

Grubhub letter to contractors

If you're serious about that, you will do away with a policy that scares drivers into continuing to deliver even when they are not feeling well.

Seriously, is there any way that continuing this policy is even remotely appropriate?

Could this help someone else? Please share it.

Tony D

Thursday 12th of March 2020

I just cancelled a full week of blocks. As only a partner I probably won’t be able to get blocks or decent offers for awhile.

Grubhub needs to suspend this right now.

Comments are closed.
About the Author

Ron Walter made the move from business manager at a non-profit to full time gig economy delivery in 2018 to take advantage of the flexibility of self-employment. He applied his thirty years experience managing and owning small businesses to treat his independent contractor role as the business it is.

Realizing his experience could help other drivers, he founded to encourage delivery drivers to be the boss of their own gig economy business.

Ron has been quoted in several national outlets including Business Insider, the New York Times, CNN and Market Watch.

You can read more about Ron's story,, background, and why he believes making the switch from a career as a business manager to delivering as an independent contractor was the best decision he could have made.

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